Why do I teach music to children? This is a question those who read this blog likely have to answer for themselves from time to time. As September comes into view, we have accomplished a long list of tasks that are not directly connected to sharing the gift of music with our students. Before the first lesson is planned, we probably have been required to make compromises in our schedules to accommodate the many needs of school-wide programs. Each of us answers to school and county-based administrators who are responsible for ensuring that we meet the new year guidelines passed down by our local school districts. There are the state-wide teaching standards that must be reviewed and addressed in each lesson prepared and presented. We have a responsibility to advocate for the many ways our subject impacts the educational development of our students. Besides our teaching responsibilities, there are bus, lunchroom, car pick-up, and assorted miscellaneous duties that will be assigned to us. We are responsible for setting up our classrooms, repairing our instruments, and scheduling rehearsals before and after the regular school day. Parents must be contacted, and approved chaperones must be scheduled for upcoming performances involving large groups of students. The list of responsibilities can seem to be endless!
If our assigned tasks overwhelm us, they can become a negative stress factor in our professional lives. I have spoken with dozens of dedicated musicians who have given up the classroom, because they can't deal with the extraneous details that are part of the typical teaching career. This brings us back to the original question: Why do we teach music to children? Of course, there is not a standard answer to this question.
When I become overwhelmed with the stress of my tasks and frustration builds, I try to recall what initially drew me into the career of music education. Of course, being a male, there was the original power that playing my guitar and performing in a “rock” band had in attracting the attention of the local female population. Once I had settled down with my lovely wife, I noticed a number of other reasons that made sharing music the primary focus of my life.
As I introduce myself to my students, I always share the profound influence music has in my daily living. When I ask students to describe how music impacts their lives, I have heard thousands of impassioned responses during my career. Generally, these responses include specific styles of music that help the listener become more involved in the activities of his or her life. Up-beat music for completing physical tasks, quiet background music to encourage concentration, sound-tracks to enhance digital entertainment, and music in houses of worship that aides in praise, reflection, and meditation always top the lists of how music influences daily living. The responses of my students to the role of music in their lives has been almost universally positive. The one place where negative reflections appear deals with specific styles of music that do not seem appropriate to the individual listener. Even these negative responses soften as we listen to, interact with, and analyze music of all styles in our classes. As we help our students become critical listeners, we reinforce a common stress reliever in our teaching experience, realizing the power of music to communicate in our society.
Another great stress reliever for me is witnessing the results the study of music has on my students. Music Education makes a powerful difference in the way students relate to the world of learning. Most music lessons follow a classic form of learning as diagramed by Bloom’s taxonomy. Typically, general classroom lessons in the elementary years develop the knowledge, application, and comprehension areas of critical thinking. Music lessons often delve deeper by encouraging analyzation, synthesis, evaluation, and creative responses to the material being studied. This higher critical level of exploration prepares students for making independent and informed decisions as they navigate their grade level curriculums. It certainly is a stress reliever to witness the positive influence our instruction offers to our students!
Beyond the cognitive learning experience, the exploration of music offers a deeply affective element to education! When a class reacts emotionally to the music we teach, we experience a joy that is often missing in typical learning environments. To have the privilege of offering heartfelt experiences to our students is a definite stress reliever! Music teachers make a difference in the quality of living our students experience. A music performance can be life-changing for an individual student. Years after exciting presentations, former students have come to me and asked if I remember specific performances. These students have identified a meaningful relationship between performing music and the quality of their existence. The study of music encourages a passion for learning that can be applied across an elementary school curriculum.
When we play our instruments, sing our songs, and dance to the music of our lives, we express honest thanksgiving. Is there a better way to relieve stress than being thankful? As elementary music teachers, we are given the opportunity to share the affective emotion of joy with all of our students, helping to make the world a safer and happier place in which to live!
When I finish reviewing the many reasons I teach music, I am able to combat the overwhelming stress factors of my job and jump back into the fray with enthusiasm, at least until the next variation of "Why do I teach music to children?" crops up in my thinking.
The next time you find yourself working for a paycheck or wishing each day was Friday, start preparing a list that reflects all of the reasons you became a music teacher. Chances are there are enough positives in what you do to overcome the negatives that are attacking your thinking.
That's "Brad's Beat" for September, 2016. Don't hesitate to call on us at RBI for your classroom needs as you start this new teaching year. We share your passion for helping the children of the world learn to express themselves through their experiences with music!